Florida A&M University
(BLACK PR WIRE/FAMU-TALLAHASSEE) "" During the few months away from her undergraduate years of college, Florida A&M University graduate Renee Brady watched her friends try to pry themselves out of credit card debt and she now finds herself in the same boat. At the age of 18, she decided that she would open up her first line of credit. "They kept sending letters in the mail," said Brady, 22. "I thought it was simple, I never really understood the mechanics."
According to Sallie Mae, 91 percent of undergraduates have at least one credit card and the average number of cards has grown to 4.6, with half of college students having four or more cards. The typical undergrad student carries $3,173 in credit card debt and the average senior will graduate with $4,100 in credit card debt. "I needed help paying my tuition and because I was on a student visa, I was not able to work," said Brady.
Studies show that 92 percent of undergraduates use credit cards to pay for educational expenses and 30 percent admitted to using their credit cards to pay for college tuition. Brady thinks that credit card companies intentionally go after young adults, especially those straight out of high school. "We are young and naive," said Brady.
FAMU business graduate Phaedra Simpson, 23, explained that she was not informed on how to use a credit card and was sent one in high school. "They prey on us," said Simpson. "Thank God I paid off my balance before graduation."
In 2007, a survey on teens and money reported that only 45 percent of teens know how to use a credit card and only 26 percent understood the procedures regarding credit-card interest and fees. Jump$tart Coalition found that high school students lack an understanding of basic personal finance concepts. Only ten percent of respondents said they learned about personal finance at school, while 60 percent learned at home.
Not only are college graduates leaving their institutions with student loan debt, but they are also stepping into the world with credit card debt. Unlike student loans, you cannot defer a credit card payment.
Brady admits that going to graduate school to pursue a doctorate degree was an opportunity to defer payments. She sees this as an opportunity to pay off her credit cards and then after she can worry about her student loans, but not both at the same time. "I call it cheating the system," said Brady. "I have four credit cards, but only one is activated and I owe $4,000 on it," said Brady. "I make payments of $252 every month, on top of me having to pay rent and for other expenses."
Brady estimated that approximately 16 percent of her income went to credit card bills every month. According to the Center for Responsible Spending, people in the 18 to 24 age bracket spend nearly 30 percent of their monthly income just on debt repayment.
"There are laws in place that are supposed to protect the naive from these sharks," said Brady. "If they're going to attack us at such a young age, universities should at least mention it in our orientation classes."
According to Sallie Mae, undergraduates admitted the need for more financial management education and said they wish they would have learned about credit cards as college freshman.
"I had a different idea of what the real world was like after graduation," said Brady. "But I guess this is the real world."